The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Mali and continues to recommend against all travel to the north of the country due to kidnapping threats against Westerners. This replaces the Travel Warning for Mali dated August 31, 2009, to update security and threat information.
As noted in the Department of Stateâs Worldwide Caution, dated July 29, 2009, the Islamic extremist group Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has been designated as a terrorist organization by both the United States and the European Union. AQIM has declared its intention to attack Western targets throughout the Sahel (including Mali, Mauritania, and Niger), and has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of two Canadian United Nations officials in Niger in December 2008, the kidnapping of four European tourists in January 2009 on the Mali-Niger border, the murder of a British hostage in Mali in June 2009, the murder of a U.S. citizen in Mauritania in June 2009, and the suicide-bombing of the French Embassy in Mauritania on August 8, 2009. On November 14, 2009, heavily armed individuals attempted to kidnap U.S. Embassy employees in Tahoua, Niger.
In addition to threats posed by AQIM and potential hostage takers, confrontations between the Malian military and Tuareg rebel groups occurred in Nampala (along Maliâs border with Mauritania) in December 2008 and in the region of Kidal in January 2009. The threat posed by AQIM, continued Tuareg unrest, sporadic banditry, and the porous nature of Maliâs northern borders with Algeria, Niger, and Mauritania all reinforce longstanding security concerns affecting travel to northern Mali.
The Department of State notes that the U.S. Embassy in Bamako has designated the northern regions of Mali as "restricted without prior authorization" for purposes of travel by U.S. government employees, contractors, grantees and their dependents. Prior to traveling to these areas U.S. government employees are required to have the written approval of the U.S. Ambassador to Mali. This designation is based on the presence of AQIM, as well as Tuareg rebel activity and banditry. Though this restriction does not apply to private U.S. citizens, it should be taken into account by all Americans contemplating travel to Mali. The restriction is in effect for the following areas:
-The region of Kidal;
-The region of Gao including the road to Ansongo and the border with Niger;
-The region of Timbuktu.
U.S. citizens are specifically reminded that the restricted areas include Essakane, site of the popular "Festival au Desert" musical event, as well as many other musical and cultural festivals in the regions of Kidal and Gao that are traditionally held between December and February. It should be noted that in addition to the potential terrorist and criminal threats, these celebrations are located in some of the most remote destinations on earth and the Embassy would have extreme difficulty rendering assistance should an emergency occur there.
All U.S. citizens residing or traveling in Mali are urged to register with the Department of State or the U.S. Embassy in Bamako through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov. By registering, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at ACI 2000 at Rue 243, Porte 297. The Embassy's mailing address is B.P. 34, Bamako, Mali. The telephone number is (223) 2070-2300. The consular fax number is (223) 2070-2340. The Embassy webpage is http://mali.usembassy.gov.
Updated information on travel and security in Mali may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada or, for callers outside of the United States and Canada, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. For further information, please consult the Country Specific Information for Mali and the Worldwide Caution, which are available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet website at http://travel.state.gov.